Majordomo is my favorite of the Momofuku restaurants, or of the Momofuku restaurants I’ve tried.
I feel like all of Momofuku in general is built on this concept, but Majordomo does it best — taking traditional Asian food and turning it on its head, putting the Momofuku spin on it. This is what I love so much about food, that it’s not a static thing, that it stretches through time and crosses borders and absorbs histories, changing and evolving as it does.
We start with the fried oxtail with salsa seca and peanuts and chilis, and I’m obsessed with this salsa seca. The first time I came to Majordomo, it was earlier this year, shortly after it opened, with a bookish friend who loves to read and eat in equal amounts. In January, this dish was fried butterball potatoes with salsa seca and peanuts, and the peanuts came whole in their shells, confusing us because we weren’t sure if we were supposed to shell the peanuts or eat the peanuts in their shells — were peanut shells edible? Were they okay to eat?
The salsa seca then, too, was the highlight, and my bookish friend and I were obsessed. I wanted a bowl of hot rice to spoon it onto, some sesame oil to drizzle over it and mix and eat, and I feel the same this time around, too. The fried oxtail is tender and falls off the bone, and the peanuts come shelled this time, no confusion to be had. I still want a bowl of hot rice and sesame oil.
Our order of bing with pork collar and grilled pineapple comes out next, and the bing is hot, so hot we drop it back onto the plate while we try to tear it to pieces. (Well, my BFF and I do. You have Teflon fingers from all the chef-ing.) The pork collar and pineapple are both sliced thin, served alongside a puddle of hot sauce we all approve of because it’s spicy enough to provide some heat, not too spicy to overwhelm and burn our taste buds.
And then there’s pasta — mafaldine in XO sauce with clams — and you wave your fork in my direction, say, You never say no to fresh noodles.
Only a sociopath would, I say, slurping noodles happily.
And, then, there’s the chicken.
We get the whole chicken, and it’s cooked two ways.
First, it’s poached in a broth, the whole chicken in its entirety, and, when they bring it over to show it to us steaming in its Dutch oven, the chicken is practically pure white, sitting in a clear broth. The first variation they bring out is the Majordomo riff on Hainanese chicken rice, the breast now removed from the chicken and split in half and sliced, placed on a bed of flavorful rice that’s been cooked in the broth. One half of the chicken is covered in a more traditional ginger scallion sauce; the other half is covered in a black bean sauce.
It’s fucking delicious.
The rest of the chicken comes shredded in the broth, which now has bok choy, mushrooms, and hand-torn noodles added to it. It’s like kahl-guk-su or like su-jae-bi, and it’s a tad salty for my tastes (my palate skews more bland), but it’s hot and flavorful and sets off all the right nostalgia points in my brain. This is pure comfort food, and all it needs is a bowl of hot rice to add to the broth.
(You know something is great when all you want is a bowl of rice to mix into the sauce, broth, whatever and sop up all that goodness, leaving none of it behind.)
There’s a nice feeling to this meal, my last goodbye meal before I leave LA, before we catch a stupidly early morning flight to New York tomorrow. You’re heading back up to Boston tomorrow night. I’m leaving my puppy with my parents here in LA as I transition into a new, full-time job and a new apartment. On my last night in this city, you’re here with me at this table on the patio at Majordomo, you and my BFF, and it’s a small dinner, but it was meant to be that way.
We’re moving on quietly, but we’re moving on together, and that’s what really counts.